Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds
- The Cubs have won back-to-back games just once against the Reds since September 13, 2011. That was a modest two-game streak from Sept. 9-10, 2013. Cincinnati holds a 34-12 record against Chicago during this stretch.
- Mike Leake is 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his last four starts against the Cubs, all in 2013. Chicago sluggers Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro went a combined 4-for-23 against Leake last season
- Jay Bruce is batting .206 with two homers and 11 RBI in 18 games this season when Joey Votto is out of the starting lineup. Votto's status for this series is up in the air due to a strained left quad.
- Since 1914, this week marks the 25th series of five games or more between the two teams and the first since 1999 (four series of six games were played). During this stretch, the only sweep in a series of five games or more was the by the Reds in 1931.
- After their 4-2 win over the Brewers yesterday, the Reds went to 7-3 against the Brewers to go with a 19-9 combined record against the Brew Crew, Pirates and Cubs on the season.
- Edwin Jackson has 252 career starts, fifth most by active pitchers 30 years old or younger. Felix Hernandez of the Mariners leads with 288 career starts at just 28 years and 90 days old.
- Angels clinch first West title since '09
- Wainwright wins 19th, shuts out Brewers
- KC bests Sale, one-half back of Tigers
- A's meltdown in 9th hands West to Angels
- Marlins star Stanton done for season
By NOEY KUPCHAN
(AP) -- While the Cincinnati Reds are sending four players to next week's All-Star game, Alfredo Simon somewhat surprisingly isn't one of them.
In his first appearance since getting left off the NL roster, Simon looks to win a sixth consecutive decision Wednesday night against the last-place Chicago Cubs.
Many felt Simon (11-3, 2.78 ERA) was deserving of a nod after putting together a terrific first half. Tied for the league lead in wins, Simon has posted a .222 opponent's batting average and 1.05 WHIP to rank among the NL's top 10 in both categories.
The 33-year-old right-hander allowed two runs over 7 1-3 innings to beat Milwaukee 4-2 on Friday, improving to 5-0 with a 2.63 ERA over his last seven starts. There's a chance he could still be added to the All-Star team with four starters - including teammate Johnny Cueto - currently scheduled to pitch Sunday.
"I have the numbers for the All-Star team but it's not up to me," he said. "Every time I go out, I just try to do my best. I keep trying to put zeroes on the board. I've never had 11 wins before but my arm is like a 20-year old."
Simon has shined in three matchups against the Cubs this year, going 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA. Ryan Sweeney is 1 for 13 against him lifetime, and Nate Schierholtz and Justin Ruggiano are a combined 1 for 12.
The surging Reds (48-42) are seeking a season best-tying fifth straight win for the second time in two weeks after sweeping Tuesday's doubleheader. Cincinnati pulled out a 4-2 victory in Game 1 before completing its biggest comeback of the season in the nightcap, winning 6-5 on Billy Hamilton's broken-bat walkoff single.
"It just unifies all of us," said manager Bryan Price, whose team fell behind 5-0 in the third inning. "We just feel really good right now."
Hamilton is batting .375 with six extra-base hits, nine RBIs, nine runs and seven steals in 11 games against Chicago (38-51) this year, with the Reds going 8-3. Cincinnati has taken four straight from the Cubs, whose 38 stolen bases are just one more than Hamilton's total.
The Cubs (38-51) have followed four straight wins with a season worst-tying five consecutive defeats, a skid during which they've been outscored 34-11. Chicago is 9-31 in its last 40 against the Reds.
"This one's tough on us all," Anthony Rizzo said following Game 2. "It's not easy to swallow."
Chris Coghlan, who went a combined 3 for 7 and homered in both legs of the doubleheader, is batting .452 with 10 runs scored during a nine-game hitting streak.
The Cubs will hope for a brief boost Wednesday from top prospect Arismendy Alcantara, who is expected to be called up for a two-day stint while Darwin Barney goes on paternity leave. The 22-year-old infielder was hitting .307 with 10 homers, 25 doubles, 11 triples and 21 stolen bases with Triple-A Iowa.
Dallas Beeler will make a second start for Chicago, which has two open spots in the rotation after sending Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland. Beeler impressed in his big-league debut June 28, yielding one unearned run and four hits over six innings in a 3-0 loss to Washington.
"His ball has a lot of sink and depth," manager Rick Renteria told MLB's official website. "He works it to both sides. I thought he kept the ball down. I thought he was extremely composed in his outing with us, as was evidenced by the results. ... He just showed a really good mound presence and good stuff."
Beeler will try to quiet Jay Bruce, who has gotten hot following an 0-for-21 slump. The right fielder is 5 for 16 with three homers and nine RBIs over the last four games.
Updated July 9, 2014